Proof that Humans Exist

If the religious community has focused more on proofs for the existence of G-d than for the existence of mankind, it is only because the former is denied far more directly than the the latter. We are told all the time to doubt the existence of human beings, but in subtler language. The question is not whether fuzzy bipeds walk the earth, speaking to each other, playing baseball, writing books, etc. The question is whether they’re human, that is, essentially distinct from all other beings. The voices ring out with a resounding No!: “A human being is just an ape plus details.” “A human being is just an artificial intelligence minus details.” “A human being is like any other localized set of particles plus (illusory?) details.”*

It is not (just) a particular disdain for human beings that motivates these arguments. We can hardly blame the contemporary thinker for denying human beings in particular if he denies all non-reductive essences in general; in fairness, he also says a frog is something else plus details, water is just two other things combination, and so on. The denial of human beings per se is just the subset of denying anything per se, of denying anything has essential characteristics making it what it is. This is, in most cases, called nominalism and may or may not be the scourge of modernity.

Whether there’s a particular ire for humanity or merely no apparent reason to exclude them from the illusory appearance of essences, the result is the same. In essence, the human being is a concept that needs defense, demonstration, proof. It would be extremely helpful to discover or rediscover arguments that point to something like the “essential nature” of the human being, something very much akin to a soul, as we shall see. Such an argument would preferably be logically sound, easily-conveyed, and rooted in easily-acceptable premises.

One such argument is dropped like a bomb in a short paragraph by David Berlinski on p.116 of his outstanding collection of essays, Human Nature:

A simple modal argument is sometimes of use in this argument; and if not of use, then carelessly neglected. If human beings are largely insignificant in the cosmos, then surely they are not necessary either. Krauss says as much explicitly. “You could get rid of us and all the galaxies and everything we see in the universe and it will be largely the same.” But if human beings are not necessary to the universe, then it follows that the universe is not sufficient for human beings. If ∼(∼Q⊃∼P) then ∼(P⊃Q). If this is so, anything that might reasonably be called a naturalistic explanation for the emergence of human life is beside the point. There could not be any such thing.

This “carelessly neglected” line of reasoning is directed toward those who would offer a “naturalistic explanation for the emergence of human life.” That is, it speaks to those who view humanity as something like a cosmic accident, a meaningless complication thrown out by impersonal universal forces for some infinitesimally short slice of time, preceded (in time or in importance) by eons and likely followed by infinity. This view is a subset of those who deny humanity per se; in this case, the human being is reduced to forces of nature plus details.

This sort of naturalist inevitably believes that human beings are not necessary to the universe. After all, if human beings were necessary, a built-in outcome of all those universal forces, then the forces would not be impersonal at all, but rather inherently geared toward producing not just life, but human life! They could do nothing else but result in human beings; humanity was baked into the universe from the beginning!

No, per the naturalist, human beings must be unnecessary, or merely possible, to the universe. The difference between being necessary to a prior state of affairs and being merely possible to it can be illustrated by two different recipes for cake. The baker for whom the cake is necessary to the recipe writes the following:

Chocolate Cake Recipe:
1 x Chocolate Cake

There is no outcome from these ingredients other than cake, and no other ingredients are required to produce the cake as an outcome. These ingredients inevitably yield cake, to the extent that the baker doesn’t even have to do anything. If we have the ingredients, we actually already have cake, just as when humans are necessary to the universe, they already exist in a certain sense from the moment time begins; we are truly inevitable.

The naturalist baker views the human cake as having a recipe more like:

Chocolate Cake Recipe:
2 x Eggs
4 Tbsp. Baking Chocolate
2 Cups Flour

None of these ingredients on their own is cake, and on the contrary, they must come together in a specific way under specific conditions (e.g., mixed together and then baked in a pan at 350 °) to yield cake as their outcome. The cake is not a necessary result of this recipe; if we forget the eggs or fail to mix the ingredients properly or don’t place them in a warm enough oven, there will be no cake. The naturalist claims, at the very least, that the ‘starting ingredients’ of the universe (e.g., matter, energy, forces) necessitate no human beings, that human beings could have or could not have existed just as easily as far as those starting ingredients care.

In truth, the naturalist claims the ingredients are not even ingredients except in retrospect when they happen to have created a cake. Ingredients imply that there is a purposive process intended to produce a certain result. The naturalist, as explained above, won’t have it. To them, the ordering “recipe” is an imposition of the human mind rather than an expression of qualities inherent to the ingredients. But to make this claim of purposelessness, one must already have concluded that human beings are not necessary to the universe, or in other words, that it could have turned out differently, with no human beings emerging on the scene at all.

Berlinski then makes a rather straightforward argument: If human beings are not necessary to the universe, then the universe is insufficient to produce human beings. In the language of our metaphor, if the resultant cake is not necessary to the second cake recipe, then the ingredients of the recipe are not sufficient to produce the cake.

In other words, the first recipe plus nothing equals its result. The second recipe, however, being a normal recipe, requires additional things to produce the result.** The ingredients alone are insufficient to produce the cake because if they alone were sufficient, we would have the cake already! Since we do not necessarily have the cake just because we have the ingredients, the ingredients are not enough to produce the cake on their own (without mixing, baking, etc.).

This leaves our friend the naturalist in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, the naturalist cannot say that human beings are necessary to the universe, like the first recipe, because that would imply human beings are as important as the entire universe; after all, the universe must produce humankind the way the first recipe must produce a cake. On the other hand, the naturalist cannot say that human beings are not necessary to the universe, like the second recipe, because that would imply the universe is insufficient to produce humankind, that the universe needs mysterious outside help to create a human being. Either we are a totally predetermined inherent reality to the universe, or the universe alone cannot create us at all.***

The naturalist’s description of us as insignificant accidents of nature seems, well, half-baked.

 

While Berlinski has not demonstrated the human essence or soul, exactly, he has given us a nudge in the right direction. He shows that understanding the recipe for a thing tells us a lot about it. When we say ‘recipe,’ we mean not only the material components but what it means for something to have a recipe, what it means for something to have a necessary or unnecessary effect, for its components to be sufficient or insufficient grounds.

As my teacher, Rabbi Yitzchak Kaufmann, points out, a similar argument to Berlinski’s is found in the Discourses of the Tzemach Tzedek, the third Rebbe of Lubavitch. This argument does speak directly to the human essence and the human soul. It is found in Torah Ohr, Bereishis, Hosafos p.434, and in Sefer HaChakira, p.63, and it starts like this:

In Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Bereishis, ch. 8, on the words (Genesis 5:2), “male and female He created them”:

Rabbi Yehoshua bar Nechemya says in the name of Rabbi Chanina bar Yitzchak, and the Rabbanan say in the name of Rabbi Eliezer: G-d created in humankind four qualities from above and four qualities from below. They eat and drink like an animal, reproduce and multiply like an animal, leave waste like an animal, and die like an animal. From above: They stand like attending angels, speak like attending angels, have knowledge like attending angels, and see [both to the front and to the sides] like attending angels.

In my opinion, we learn from this a demonstration of the soul’s persistence [after the body’s death], for Maimonides writes in his Guide for the Perplexed, pt. II, ch. 1, in the second argument, that when we see the composite of two components, and then we also discover one of these components alone, then certainly the other component exists on its own. For example, there is a honey/vinegar mixture, and when we know that honey also exists without vinegar, we may deduce from seeing honey alone that the mixture of honey and vinegar is not necessary. And therefore, we know that vinegar exists apart from honey. Even if we’ve never seen pure honeyless vinegar, we know it exists from the fact that we’ve seen honey alone.

What happens if we buy a cake made of eggs, flour, and chocolate, then later see eggs by themselves, without the other ingredients? This would prove to us, beyond a doubt, that our cake is not made with the first type of recipe mentioned above. The recipe for cake is not simply cake. Rather, it’s made with the second type of recipe. By seeing that eggs can exist on their own, we show that the cake is an unnecessary composite. If the recipe for cake is just cake, its ingredients always come together; you will never find an ingredient apart from the whole. Since we’ve discovered the eggs on their own, the cake’s ingredients must come together only sometimes, but not always. And if they don’t always come together, that means there must be chocolate out there, too. Even if I’ve only ever seen a cake and the eggs that are one of its ingredients, I know that these ingredients don’t always occur together, and so, at least sometimes, chocolate must exist without eggs.

So, if we knew that a human being was just such an unnecessary composite, we would know that a human being’s component parts must, at least sometimes, occur independently of one another.

Continues the Tzemach Tzedek:

So, too, in man, do we see a composite of animal and human life. Man has four qualities, as the Midrash describes, that are just like an animal’s, and four additional qualities that animals have not at all. This means man is a composite of the animal and the human. Even though the animal in man is more refined, it is still literally like that of an animal and equal to an animal in the four traits mentioned above. It is just that man has an additional four traits from above, knowledge and the faculty of speech, etc. And since we find the four animal traits in animals without the higher traits, from this we can judge the four traits from “above” to also exist on their own, without animal aspects.

That is, the “animal” [in man must be just] the physical body of flesh and blood receiving life, and therefore say that the four aforementioned heavenly traits of knowledge, speech, etc., exist without a physical body in abstract intelligences [e.g., angels]. And this is demonstrated through the above demonstration. And now, since the soul of man contains aspects from intelligences abstracted from matter, even if the animal soul does not persist [after the destruction of its physical matter], the human soul certainly does.

And even though we believe in this according to the Torah without any philosophical investigation or [need for] human intellect, as the verse says (Shmuel 25:29), “the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life” and (Zecharia 3:7), “I will permit you to move about,” nevertheless, nothing is lost by supporting it with this demonstration as well. And even though the philosophers bring other demonstrations for the soul’s persistence, this demonstration is supported by the above Midrash.

The Ephodi and ReSheT question our principle and say we indeed to find composites and one of their components alone without discovering the other component alone. [For example, a] man contained both life and speech, and life is found without speech, but speech is never found without life.

But according to what was said above in the name of the Midrash, on the contrary, this is proof for our point. Speech is found in man from above, i.e., in speech, he is like the attending angels, and it is about this that the verse says, “man is created in the image of G-d.” And if so, speech is found apart from life, that is, apart from bodily life, in the abstract intelligences.****

The human being is made of multiple components, multiple ingredients. These components do not exist as a necessary composite; that is, they can exist apart from each other, just as the eggs can exist apart from the cake. Just as man eats and drinks, for example, so does an animal. This shows that the various faculties of the human being do not have to coincide. But if the human being is not a necessary composite, this means that those aspects of man which do not occur in animals, like his abstract intellect or his ability to speak, must occur separately from the animal faculties of man as well. If the egg exists in a pure form unmixed with any other ingredient, so much the chocolate.

Not only are we either necessary to the universe or beyond its sufficiency, as Berlinski would have it. We are also human beings. We are not an ape plus details, or an artificial intelligence minus details, or any other being plus or minus a few incidental traits. All of these beings’ traits are bodily. In us, bodily traits exist in addition to unique human traits. Since the composite is not a necessary one, our unique human traits also must exist alone, apart from any bodily traits, persisting beyond (chronologically and spiritually) our body, the way a piece of chocolate persists beyond a chocolate cake.

This persistent collection of human traits constitutes human life and human identity, and may comfortably be called the human soul. If we have not found G-d, we have at least found ourselves. And that is a large part of finding G-d as well, if our holy teachers are to be believed.


* It has especially been the role of Darwinism to displace this essential distinction; other modern philosophies like transhumanism have merely rushed to fill the gap left by evolution’s assertion that species are infinitely malleable. This is what Darwin means when he writes (quoted in Berlinski p.109), “[W]e will have to treat species in the same manner as those naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely artificial combinations made for convenience.” Since species can change into other species by a series of piecewise steps, the species themselves cannot be essentially fixed. Each species becomes like a genus, that is, a group of species. Philosophically, there is nothing below the genera in this system, which to this essentialist sounds almost like an infinite regress, a tower built on air, a bunch of zeros summed to produce not just one but all known numbers. Darwin, of course, did not invent the philosophical aspects of evolution in his theory; earlier, more coherent versions trace all the way back to the essentialist Plato. His influential theory of forms implies an order of being such that differentiating essences may be appended to shared common denominators. Aristotle’s definition of man as the ‘rational’ animal is a prime example. To him, animality is a true shared essence and rationality the distinguishing factor, such that man and animal are metaphysically “related.” The Talmud (in law) and Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah (in metaphysics) repeatedly deny this ‘accretion of forms,’ particularly due to their commitment to creation ex nihilo.

**In fact, this is what makes the second recipe a normal recipe; “normal” for finite beings like us means “something from something,” the creation of a new thing by multiple parties in agreement. When G-d makes the universe ex nihilo, from nothing, He does so as the sole party to the creation (and He does not and cannot count as a “something,” hence, “from nothing”). He says, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and what was the cause? G-d alone. Nothing in our reality works like this; when we make something, it is by actualizing an already-existent potential, by attaching form to matter. Thus, there can, in principle, be no recipe (in the cookbooks of the finite universe) with only a single ingredient and no further instructions; this is not a “recipe” but just a food ready to eat. When we say G-d creates ex nihilo, then, we are saying He creates with no ingredients and no process. It is not just impossible for us to understand because we’ve never seen it, but impossible to understand in principle; there is no answer to the questions of “how” or “by what process” or “by what means” or “on what basis.” Creation ex nihilo is, by human standards, very not-normal.

***There is a third option, which is that the universe does not necessitate human beings but rather wills human beings to exist. Will has the advantage of being free, rather than necessary, and so ‘the universe’ can be sufficient to produce humankind without having to do so. For some reason, naturalists don’t seem comfortable saying an infinite intelligence willed humanity into being. If I had to predict, I’d say they’re far more likely to take the first option, that human beings are necessary to the universe, and downplay this concession by saying everything else in the universe is necessary to it, too. But this merely elevates all creatures to a position of literal cosmic significance, rather than returning humanity to the desired(?) position of insignificance.

****The conclusion of the discourse, moved to this footnote so as not to confuse the reader, is as follows:

And this that they ask based upon essence and accident, the ReSheT already answers there, that accident is not its own existence and exists only with an essence. Thus, it is not true that when you find the essence without the accident, you will also find the accident without the essence.

An example of this question and answer in the ReSheT, as I understand them:

(Q) You say if I run into a composite and one of its parts I will know with certainty that the other parts exist apart from the composite, but that seems to imply if I see a brown cake and then the same cake colored white, that “being brown” exists in a pure state apart from any cake! And this seems absurd.

(A) “Being brown” is the sort of thing that exists only as a quality of another thing, but is not a thing in-and-of-itself; it is an accident, not an essence. Accidents are exceptions to the rule outlined by the Rambam and with which we have learned the persistence of the soul from the Midrash. They cannot, by definition, exist alone, apart from any composite. This is in contrast with speech or eggs or eating, which are substantial.

May G-d Rescue Us From Our Solutions

Based on my everyday experience, it makes sense that the creation of the world is incomprehensible.

What is this thing doing here? Why is it built on a system of soul and body, a painful contradiction seemingly unjustified by anything in the universe? Sure, there’s baseball and hating Michael Chabon, but no joy in this vale of tears is without its price.

Chief, in my reckoning, of all the challenges that G-d places before a soul on this earth is the challenge of doubt. Not the caricature portraying the vacillation between “blind faith” and the ability to “believe,” but the deeper doubt, the one that zigs faith and zags understanding to strike right at what I am.

The problem is that we become attached to things, and even though past pain has made us wise, we (even subconsciously) begin to define ourselves by our views, opinions, and moral judgments.

If we are souls in bodies, you see, these beliefs are bodies. They are not purely of our private selves, but rather various means by which to express those selves in a place our selves otherwise could not reach. We, you see, are like lightning or opera; our souls are not for bottling. We can want whatever we want with our entire being; we are one thing, and that one thing decides what it is. A soul wants (in a passing moment between agonies) to eat pizza, and the soul changes; that’s what it’s now about. The soul is not insecure. It is thoroughly itself, so self-inseparable that it can turn toward pizza and lose nothing.

But imagine being a Jew who believes that Judaism means the Torah is given by G-d, and then there are eighteen articles a day on the falseness of Judaism or (even worse) on how Judaism means never having to say you’re sorry and crying at Disney films.

This puts the body under a lot of stress. A soul, at its protean essence, can simply switch to a new, enlightened outlook. Nothing is stopping it. It may desire to see things today as no Rabbi on earth has evern seen it, and it can fulfill that desire. The soul is of the infinite; it can be about anything.

The only thing holding the soul back, just like a fat kid trying to finish the Presidential Fitness Test, is its body. Your stupid soul got invested in some stupid idea (about Judaism) and you can’t just drop it now for a more palatable cultural/pragmatic Yiddishkeit germane to the New Yorker subscriber’s pillow talk, no more than Eugene can get Presidential with his thighs chafing before his classmates captivated by the heaving mass of his bloated form.

But no, souls in bodies, this is the plan. Infinite dreams, sweaty underwear realities.

If it is any consolation, G-d put Himself in the same stupid bind by creating this world of lies and investing Himself in it. If He wanted, He could go fractally spiral his endless wisdom through infinite dimensions while the stupid world with its ugly continents can’t even do one pull-up. Instead, He is here, in every slimy dismissal and every Hamas missile. Him, Him Him. Why? Because.

Like I said, of all things to make no sense, it makes sense it would be this one.

That’s why the dream of Moshiach is so big and so unworldly. Everyone here, with their own ideas and preconceptions, seeks to either free the soul and deny the body or recognize the body and tame the soul. Some wish to tell us the body/thought is a lie, an artifact created by brainwashing. They all vote Democratic and think they’re G-d. Others laugh at the soul’s freedom and write it off as childish mishegas. They adopt Trumpisms into their speech unexamined and don’t even think G-d is G-d.

His plan is much stranger. The soul’s freedom and the body’s cage are one; will and intellect do not contradict. The idolator says a body, by its nature, inherently conveys a certain soul. The Jew knows that body and soul are each his native tongue. Just as the Rebbe did not fear technology or vessel but demanded they be used for holiness, Moshiach will show how the body does not contradict soul but is its pure and perfect expression; nature and miracle are both G-d, are only G-d; the gufei halachos and the nishmasa d’nishmasa are one. To lose the soul or the body is to die, but to find both without contradiction is to live forever.

In the meantime, we live in this exile with Jews who think nothing is more Jewish than criticizing Jews, who think that thousands of years of Jewish parents died to raise their children to reject “inmarriage” as a ghetto. We live in times when just about a whole country of Jews define Judaism as being a wilful soul without a constraining body; they do not see how they are as incarnated as the next gilgul, how they only clash with us because they, too, have bodies; souls love and do not clash. It is not the self of the soul we doubt, but the bodies she expresses through. Where she is of limitless potential, the body is of defined actuality. Where she can infinitely agree, the body cannot occupy another body’s space.

How long must we wait for this doubt to end, this endless self-harm of the body Judaic, this terminal and interminable disunity between self and inner other?  How long must there be tension between the need to unite with brother and sister and solid impermeable realities that separate us? How long must we tolerate?

We are told that it is all one, and we work to see it. We are told He wishes to be together with us even in our bodies. But how much of this can we take?

We cannot live much longer, having to choose between Jew and Judaism, between self and self.

G-d, rescue us from doubt. Destroy Amalek, let us not need to be free of your Torah nor of the selves we see in it. Let us experience the freedom of the body and the entrapment of the soul. Rescue us from our own solutions, and give us Yours, amen.

 

 

Originally posted on Hevria.

How Transgenderism Points To G-d

Let me take just a minute and talk to my fellow religious Jews about transgenderism.

As any user of the (dangerously addictive) site TV Tropes knows, there is a certain type of plan hatched by fictional villains called the Xanatos Gambit. This is a maneuver by which the bad guy so outthinks the good guys that even when the good guys have won, they have lost.

Consider the plot of the entire first three episodes of Star Wars (if it’s not too painful). Darth Sidious creates a breakaway from the old republic that starts a huge war. This eventually causes the republic to, out of fear, 1) distrust the Jedi order, 2) trust a massive clone army left to them by a mysterious benefactor, 3) cede emergency powers to Chancellor Palpatine in the galactic senate. So when the day eventually comes that the head of that breakaway power is cut off (literally) and their forces sent running, the good guys have become the bad guys, from within, without anyone noticing, and by winning their own war they have lost it.

What if I told you that you are part of a Xanatos Gambit right now, namely, human history?

***

How could we know? Looking for the cataclysmic end result of the Xanatos gambit before it comes to pass doesn’t help. What if you tell the average patrician of the republic that the chancellor is really an evil dictator in disguise, that his defense force is really an imperialist power bent on domination, and that trust in your own side will lead you to great evil? Not to fulfill Godwin’s Law, but you would, in all likelihood not be taken seriously in your ramblings since no one else can see what you can see until it’s too late.

Similarly, I could tell you that the whole world will soon come to recognize the falseness of materialism and the truth of a reality beyond the empirical and quantifiable universe. I could tell you that G-d is like Xanatos, and he will win in the end. Telling you this would make me seem like a conspiracy theorist, a dreamer out of touch with the reality that G-d is dead and has been for over a century. If I insist that this is the direction in which we must move because that is the end of history according to the prophets, it falls flat. What are prophets compared to our own eyes?

***

No, the key to seeing the Xanatos Gambit is not to go around claiming the truth of its end goal. The key is to find the process as it takes place, the villain’s tells. If I could show you how a massive standing clone army is dangerous for the republic, especially if its source is untested, you may begin to doubt; if I told you how much worse it would be if the chancellor received emergency powers, you may begin to wonder. Once there are enough tells, enough examples of things which on the surface seem to be for our good but at a deeper level will be our downfall, our sense of the trap we are in becomes much more solid.

Even if we know from prophecies that history arcs toward a recognition and knowledge of G-d, it is hard to see how we are getting there. Our frustration is compounded by the niggling words of those great rabbis who insist we must be nearing the end of history, that time when the world will know G-d. How does the math work out that history is ending but we seem further from G-d, collectively, than we ever have? It would seem that to the average mind, the natural appearance of the world is winning out against any conception of a higher power.

But there is mischief afoot.

***

The first time I became aware of it is in the strange case of the big bang. You see, the whole cosmological concept of the big bang makes most religious people nervous, since they think of it as science’s G-dless understanding of the world’s origins which took place, like, billions of years ago for whatever baroque reasons Stephen Hawking told it to, and all of this doesn’t sound like the first verse of the Torah/Bible at all. This is, forgive me, a narrow, ignorant, and downright stupid understanding. Not because the Torah’s account is false and the big bang theory comprehensive. Not even because two things which are both true cannot be in contradiction.

It is a stupid understanding of the situation because the big bang theory is a huge win for the religious understanding of the world, even though very few people see it that way. You see, for the longest time, empiricists were quite comfortable in the belief that the universe has always existed. The idea that the whole thing had a beginning at all was a decidedly religious belief, one known only through prophecy; some might be surprised to learn that Maimonides fervently denies that one can logically, from observation of the world, prove that it did not always exist. Only the Torah can tell us that, he says. And so — when scientists began to study the background radiation of the universe, and came to the conclusion that the whole thing had a beginning, this was probably the single greatest concession to the religious understanding of the world since the enlightenment. And we have a bunch of religious people sitting around feeling somehow that the big bang is an anti-religious idea.

You see, the big bang is one small facet of a huge Xanatos Gambit. As G-d seems to be out of reach from the front windows, He is in fact sneaking in the back door. It is a firmly established fact in the minds of most that the universe had a beginning. That idea is not going away. And as long as the beginning doesn’t go away, there will always be intellectual access to the idea of a beginner, a creator. In a subtle way, G-d is firmly planted in science more than He ever has been before.

Okay, you might be thinking, but it’s not exactly the case that everyone that believes in the big bang believes in G-d. All of this seems rather far-fetched. Are you sure it’s a Xanatos gambit and not just a strange coincidence in an otherwise pretty G-dless culture? Furthermore, if this is actually G-d revealing himself, why would He do it in such a strange, backward way? Why not sign his name on distant stars along with the message “I created the universe, love, The Almighty”?

These questions bothered me for some time, and they even made me doubt my understanding of the big bang. That’s when I recently saw a second tell, a second glitch, a second example of the gambit: the ascendancy of transgenderism.

***

More even than the big bang, transgenderism as an idea is antithetical to the religious mind and traditional morality. A disease, some call it. A rebellion against the truth, others say. The religious people say, “How can you fight against biology and call yourself a man when you are chromosomally a woman, or vice versa?” It is interesting any time a science is called upon to defend a religious view, and this statement scratched at my mind for some time. There’s something here, I thought. Something strange. And then it hit me.

Transgenderism is an argument for the existence of the non-material person, dare I say, of the soul. Think about it: A transgendered person is arguing for the ascendancy of how they feel over what they look like and what their DNA says. They are saying, a woman is a person with the soul of a woman, and if the biology says otherwise, the biology can take a hike. “That’s not an argument for a soul,” you may be thinking. “It’s just an argument between their brain and the rest of their bodies.” But that’s simply not true. There is absolutely no reason why the random bits of biological matter that make up the brain ought to have more to say about your gender than, pardon me, the matter that makes up the genitals. If a human is a purely material being, why defer to some matter over other matter? Some random noise arising from the grey matter in the head has no priority over the chromosomes in every cell, and on the contrary — that matter is dangerous for the creature’s fitness and survival, and ought to be ignored from the much clearer and demonstrable traits of the sex organs.

The only reason to listen to Bruce Jenner when he says he wants to be Caitlyn Jenner is if you believe that he, that is, the subjective individual speaking to you from within the meat and bones you see with your eyes, ought to be able to decide what he is for himself. There is a person in there beyond the body’s matter; there is a soul.

How strange, I think, as I read the various posts about this issue on the Internet, that no one sees it this way. All the people who are supposed to advocate for the soul’s presence are too busy being shocked that our society has reached these lowly depths, etc. etc.

***

Hold on a minute, though. I don’t actually mean to suggest that a belief in the validity of transgenderism equates with a belief in the soul, do I? It’s like the big bang all over again. A lot of cosmologists don’t believe in G-d; a lot of transgender people don’t believe in the soul. It seems hard to say that this is an example of religious beliefs sneaking into the popular consciousness; on the contrary, it seems more an example of the inability even of enlightened secular thinking to shake off all of its religious trappings. If we are really reaching some divinely ordained end of times in which He will be revealed, why not just, you know, reveal Himself? Why would these ideas be sneaking into the collective consciousness?

For the same reason any villain needs to run a Xanatos Gambit. To assure victory, and to express one’s complete dominance. You see, G-d did reveal himself. The villain made a straightforward attack. There was a time, now enshrouded in the mists of history, when G-d was known. The problem was, the world didn’t really get it. Victory was incomplete, technical. G-d was such a powerful idea that the world became religious, but G-d did not want religiosity per se; He wanted to be known everywhere, and there were always people, societies, and ideas who were turned off by religiosity and the religious way of life. And so, a stalemate, with most of the world becoming religious but total victory out of reach.

The only option was to circumvent the dichotomy, to slowly work the dialectic back-and-forth between the religious and non-religious until the lines became blurred and the two sides could intertwine, and that unity itself would be the knowledge of G-d, that religion and antireligion could work on and sharpen each other until the dichotomy breaks and they each give way to their higher grounding.

***

There is so much more to say. We could talk about how the dialectic of the Xanatos Gambit, in which both sides are really in accordance with G-d’s plan and even when religion “loses” G-d wins, effects both religious and non-religious ideas. The traditional moral understanding of “gender roles” gave way to feminism and feminism in a very real sense is giving way to transgenderism, and all three of these steps are part of a process pointing toward to true G-dly identity of the individual.

There will come a time when even the desires and feelings of the individual become secondary to their G-dly purpose. The groundwork for that time has already been laid. And the next time we, as the religious people, hear a new idea that makes us cringe, that goes against everything we know to be true, we should take a second look at it.

We should take a second look, and await the springing of the trap.

 

Image from Flickr.

 

Originally posted on Hevria.